Ali Shaheed Muhammad
Ali Shaheed Muhammad was born and raised in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. At an early age Ali became fascinated with music. His earliest memory of this fascination was toting around a yellow Mickey Mouse transistor radio he received as a gift. "I brought that with me everywhere; I was comforted by the sounds that came from that little box," he says. Other memories lead to house parties his mother would throw where his Uncle Mike would deejay. It was at one of these parties that the then eight-year-old Ali took control of the mixer and turntables and began his life long musical journey. Ali went from local neighborhood deejay to a world-renowned producer and musician, forming not one but two popular bands.
The first group, A Tribe Called Quest, was where "Mr. Muhammad" partnered up with band mates Q-Tip and Phife. The hip-hop trio recorded five albums. Two stand incontestable as hip-hop classics. Their innovation changed the sound of hip-hop and R & B with jazzy, melodic beats. Tribe exited the world via the same stage as The Beatles and The Police, but their influence still lives with artists like D'Angelo, Common, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, The Roots and Musiq.
After Tribe, Ali co-founded a new super trio named Lucy Pearl. Here with band members Dawn Robinson and Raphael Saadiq, he was able to explore more of his music abilities. Lucy Pearl fused funk, rock, R & B and hip-hop bringing a new energy and sound which remains to be duplicated.
Ali is also a 4-time Grammy nominee -- twice with A Tribe Called Quest, once for works with D'Angelo and once for Lucy Pearl. With plenty of production credits, no Grammy wins and two defunct groups, what is left for the DJ with plenty more music in his soul?
'Shaheedullah & Stereotypes', that's what's next with his new association with Penalty Recordings. The mission here became to create a CD that would capture Ali's vast musical influences as well as spotlighting the DJ's vocal capabilities. Ali says, "I wanted to shatter the conception that I was just a DJ or that I only make a jazzy brand of music. I'm influenced by groups like Black Star, J-Live, Radiohead, Coldplay, Basement Jaxx, Issa Bagayogo, and 1 Giant Leap. It wouldn't be me if I expressed only one side of music."
"I am also Muslim and my beliefs were sure to manifest here. I just didn_t want to come off too radical," he adds. Considering the present negative media portrayal of Muslims, it is clear to see the ambition to set things straight. The title is meaningful to Ali and reflects his determination. The word Shaheedullah means witness of God. It was to be his middle name but his mother felt it was too long, and to his father's displeasure, the name was shortened. "I'm seeking the Gardens of Heaven and I can't get there leaving a legacy of B.S. in my music".
The beginning of this project was met with a new challenge. Ali never worked without the support of others. "I had to have the vision and sculpt it on my own – whoa! - that was different and stimulating," says Ali. He sought out a few friends like Stokley Williams of Mint Condition, Chris Dave (Mint Condition, Kenny Garrett), K Jay (The Foundation), Sy Smith (Psychosoul, Star 69), Chip (Fu-Schnickens), Uncle Mike and a few more musicians to make the vision complete.
Ali says, "Shaheedullah & Stereotypes' is the first phase of a bigger musical journey." So far the journey is intimate, thought provoking, tranquil, head nodding and beautiful. A freshman with a thesis so complete surely leaves one to wonder where this journey will reside. Did someone say, journey to a Tribe reunion, what's up with Lucy Pearl? Ali responds, "one mission at a time." Indeed there is a strong foundation built by this mission. "Tribe fans come get a sip, " Ali closes.